I found out recently that the only reason my parents allowed me to take out a student loan was that they never expected me to earn enough to get over the threshold required to have to pay it back!! Good to know I never inspired much confidence as a high achiever…
However, it turns out that were right… so I can’t really be offended! But I am glad that I didn’t have the idea that little was expected of me back then, because I would probably have taken that as an excuse to not work hard at all! (even less than I did…) *
But what has scared me a lot the past few months is the growing realisation that I’m tempted to be like that with God and my attitude to my sinfulness.
It’s like I think that he doesn’t expect much from me, so it’s OK for me to not try very hard at all.
I’m basically like a spiritual trapeze-y person. I go from being racked with guilt at how rubbish I am, to resting in my identity as God’s daughter, no matter how rubbish I am. This may sound super godly, but actually is just apathetic and lazy.
But do you know how much of the bible is given over to this idea of being holy? Of living in a way that shows who we are? Of obeying God’s commands?
Why are we then so scared to talk about it? Are we scared of coming across as a bunch of legalistic rule-makers like the Pharisees? So instead we focus on the love and forgiveness of our awesome God, and fluff around the parts that tell us to DO something!
Now here’s what we know.
As Jesus’ followers, we depend completely on his sacrifice to make us righteous before God. Right? We can’t do anything to make ourselves good enough for God without Jesus. And as such we now stand completely forgiven, past, present, future. And obviously it’s GREAT that we focus on that because it’s beautifully true!
BUT that doesn’t mean a pass on ever trying very hard to live in a godly way. I’m sure not many of us would say it did, but still we often live/talk like that’s what we think. So when I’m a total brat to someone, I beat myself up, but then remind myself that I’m forgiven and it’s all OK. But do I take steps to try and make it not happen again? Or pray about it? Or work to figure out what that action portrayed about my sinfulness and what I need to work on?
When it comes to serving in church, I’m the best at excusing my sinfulness. So I get impatient with someone in the band, and pin it down to them being silly, or me being tired and stressed. I may feel guilty later but do I ever pray for help or take active steps not to let it happen again?
Or I’m proud. I love that little riff I just played and I like that people noticed it. Later I may remember that it’s not meant to be about me, and say sorry to God for forgetting yet again. But again, where’s the active desire to change?
And really, church is the easiest place sometimes to act as we shouldn’t. Where better than with a bunch of flawed Christians who know they are flawed and will be doing their best to be patient with you no matter how unreasonable you are!
So much of the Bible is very clear on the actions that should come from the faith. E.g. Colossians: a couple of chapters about our awesome faith and incredible Jesus, and then, Bam- ‘ SO then, just as you received this Jesus as Lord, SO WALK IN HIM. And later, ‘put to death whatever is earthly/sinful in you’.
Or Ephesians, again a few chapters on this huge plan of salvation that we are part of, and then a mahoosive ‘SO then, walk in a manner worthy of this calling to which you have been called’.
And many many other examples…
So I was wondering then, why I’m so slow to make a conscious effort to follow rules? Why do I cringe a little if I feel a sermon has been too ‘do this and this’, and why do I struggle so much to lovingly pull up a friend on a sin I see in their life?
It’s because I can’t seem to remember that this is in response. This is just different from every other relationship I have and it’s hard to get my head around! God doesn’t ask me to live in a way that pleases him in order that I be forgiven, or in order to get some sort of blessing here and now. It’s not like normal friendships or relationships, where we must perform to get loved/accepted. Mind blown right there.
Plus also I’m lazy. I think part of me likes the excuse that I’m never going to be able to be perfect, cos I’m so rubbish and keep stuffing up. So why try?!
But we’re meant to be holy!! We’re meant to stand out. I’m meant to strive to be holy. In response to the love I’ve been shown, and because I want to be like Jesus and I Do Not want to be like the darkness, more than that: I should be the opposite of the world – it is what I once was, now I’m being renewed. (Col3:10)
I’m reading Kevin DeYoung’s book on holiness at the minute, which is awesome so far. Have a look at the list he has here of reasons to work on holiness from 2 Peter alone.
The hard bit is just always going to be keeping our heads straight. That constant battle of not despairing when I keep messing up, as I will, and not forgetting God’s love and forgiveness, but also not being tempted to do the tick-boxy, legalistic, joy-sucking religion that we are so wary of.
So here are 3 things I intend to do every day…
1- Remember who I am in Jesus, and who I will always be. But more importantly how incredible he is, and how much I want to be like him. That’s motivation sorted right there.
2- Remember that holiness is something to pursue. God is not sitting expecting me to underachieve, waiting for me to fail like some never-satisfied boss. He asks that we do this in response to what we’ve been given, as PROOF of what we’ve understood. And if I have my eyes on Jesus, surely that should be my desire! I forget that holiness will not mean me being perfect. If that’s what I think, then it’s no wonder I get demoralised. But that’s still what I’ll strive for…
This is our way of serving others too. Particularly If we are serving in any capacity that has us at the front of church, surely we should be leading the way in this fight for holiness, and being an encouragement and a challenge in the way we act, not only to those we serve with, but to those that look on.
3- Remember that we have the Spirit of life inside us. I’m so aware that none of this is possible on my own… I’m hideously weak. Any sign of growth has got to be because of the Spirit working in me. But if I have that Spirit that raised Jesus back to life living in me… surely He’s a good one to have on my side as I fight!
Sometimes it just feels exhausting. Fighting sin is like fighting a multi-sided battle, often against adversaries I thought I’d defeated before. But maybe that’s just a sign that I’m far too inward looking.
So here’s the challenge:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8-9 (ESV)
And here’s the Motivator:
‘We see in Jesus the best, most practical, most human example of what it means to be holy. He is our model of love (Jn 13:34), our model for humility (Phil 2:5-8), our model for facing temptation (Heb 4:15), our model for steadfastness in the midst of suffering (1 Pet 4:1-2) and our model for obedience to the Father (John 6:38, 14:31). We see the virtues of holiness perfectly aligned in Christ. He was always gentle, but never soft. He was bold but never brash. He was pure, but never prudish. He was full of mercy but not at the expense of justice. He was full of truth but not at the expense of grace. In everything he was submissive to his heavenly Father, and he gave everything for his sheep. He obeyed his parents, kept the law of God, and forgave his enemies. He never lusted, never coveted and never lied. In all that Jesus did during his life, and especially when his life came to an end, he loved God with his whole being and loved his neighbour as himself.
If somewhere down the road you forget the 10 commandments or can’t recall the fruits of the spirit, or don’t seem to remember any particular attributes of God, you can still remember what holiness is simply by remembering his name.’ Kevin DeYoung- Holiness
Obedience, not to earn approval – I’m already His.
But because I want to be like this man.
*My mum and dad would be pretty indignant if they read this, so I need to state for the record that the reasoning wasn’t that they thought I couldn’t earn much, but rather, since I chose to study Music, that oh so employable subject, that the chances of my becoming a millionaire were pretty slim… quite sensible foresight really..!!